Fighting Hunger and Diabetes with Healthy Food

Diabetes food box
November 22, 2014
by Kim Prendergast

November is National Diabetes Month. This month’s observation is more important than ever as there are now 29 million people in the U.S. living with this disease – most of them with the preventable, diet-related type 2 diabetes.    

Managing diabetes requires eating right, exercising regularly, checking your blood sugar and taking medication. Keeping up with a complicated regimen can be a challenge for people on any budget, but it’s particularly difficult when the healthy choices of food are out of reach. When families are food insecure they are often forced to make impossible choices about how to spend their limited food dollars.

At Feeding America we know that the people we serve are aware of the problem posed by diabetes. In Hunger in America 2014, one-third of the households we serve reported that at least one member in the family is already affected by diabetes. They understand that they need to eat well to control their diabetes but they just don’t have the resources to put the right foods on the table. Consequently they are often put in a difficult position where tough choices have to be made.

Results from Hunger in America prove this, as they demonstrate that 79 percent of the people we serve regularly turn to unhealthy, filling foods to stretch their food budget further. That means they may skip the fruits and vegetables and have an extra helping of starchy foods to feel full. Or they may cut back on the size of their meals at the end of the month when SNAP (aka food stamps) benefits run out. 

For people with diabetes, these choices have an impact on their blood sugar control and over time, can have a devastating impact on their health.

Across the Feeding America network we’re hard at work trying to better understand the connection between food insecurity and diabetes and to find solutions to this problem so that the people we serve can live healthy lives. 

In partnership with member food banks in Santa Rosa, CA, Corpus Christi, TX and Columbus, Ohio, Feeding America recently completed a diabetes initiative project to address the dual challenges of diabetes and food insecurity. Food banks worked closely with local health centers and free clinics to make sure people with diabetes had access to healthy foods, nutrition education and other resources necessary to manage their health. 

This project helped us understand the important role that food banks can play as communities come together to address diabetes. By partnering with the healthcare system food banks can ensure that people have access to the healthy foods they need and support them with health education to help them better understand their disease, make good food choices, increase their physical activity, check their blood sugars and take their medications.

People participating in the program were excited to receive healthier foods and told us that they tried new foods, especially fruits and vegetables, because they were provided in the food boxes. They also appreciated the health education that was adapted to meet their unique challenges. 

Together, we’re demonstrating that food is medicine. Together, we’re Feeding America and helping people across the nation get the food and information they need to live healthy, active lives.

Watch Judy’s story on how the diabetes program at her local food bank has helped her better manager her health. 

Kim Prendergast is a Consulting Diabetes Initiative Project Manager with Feeding America.

Tags: Innovative Solutions to Hunger , Nutrition , Atlanta Community Food Bank
 

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